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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 13:30 GMT
Bird flu anguish in rural Turkey
Chickens destroyed in Dogubeyazit
Mass culling has started in rural areas

Bird flu has brought anguish and despair to rural Turkish communities, writes the BBC's Gavin Hewitt in Dogubeyazit, eastern Turkey.

On the bleak outskirts of Dogubeyazit a sister waits for news.

Her five-year-old brother is one of the latest to be diagnosed with H5N1, the deadly strain of bird flu.

In these remote communities there is a lack of information, and growing fear.

"We too ate sick chickens," says one man. "One of my children is unwell. We have taken him to hospital and we are really worried it may be bird flu."

Close by, mourners were still arriving at the house of a family who lost three children to bird flu.

Cull

And now five more cases have been announced, some of them in the capital Ankara - four of them were children. There is no disguising the anguish felt here.

"I have buried three of my sister's children," says another man.

I haven't informed the authorities about my birds, why should I? My turkeys are not sick, I've kept them indoors
Dogubeyazit resident

"The hospital was weak and understaffed, with just one inexperienced doctor."

Inside the town, officials are still searching for poultry. It was thought the cull would take just a few days, but it is far from over. Officials here are struggling to complete this emergency cull.

Many people quite simply do not know where to take their birds, so for the health teams it is a question of painstakingly going from door to door.

While turkeys and chickens are dragged from coops, some people are clearly resisting.

One woman told us: "I haven't informed the authorities about my birds, why should I? My turkeys are not sick, I've kept them indoors."

Culling birds on such a large scale is proving an immense task. Nearly 100 villages in just this area have not been reached by health teams and there are known to be dead chickens to be lying there.

On Monday, elsewhere in Turkey, new towns announced they had got bird flu. What is happening here, beside the mountains, is of immense concern to the international community.


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